Producer Datari Turner Talks ‘A Boy. A Girl. A Dream’ And Finding Love In The Darkest Hour
It was almost by happenstance Cass and Frida even met. Had Cass looked down at his phone or Frida not realized her sandwich was ready, the two could’ve missed one another and an opportunity to realize their potential.
Omari Hardwick and Meagan Good star in the Qasim Basir directed A Boy. A Girl. A Dream. Cass is a USC graduate who gets caught up in the faux enchanting world of L.A. club promoting, when Frida, a lawyer who makes “good money,” crosses his path. Set on Election Night 2016, the fear of an elected official turning back the clock on progress looms as Cass and Frida slowly let their guard down with one another while they maneuver the very textured road of being black in America.
Viewers soon realize the two know-it-all personalities are actually two different sides to the same coin trying desperately to show one another what they can’t see in themselves. Their mutual attraction, curiosity and chemistry is made apparent despite the circumstance at play.
Film producer Datari Turner shared how he was immediately intrigued by the story, but once Donald Trump became president, the need to showcase these two characters took on a new life. Turner, whose produced 30 films and TV shows, spoke with VIBE about his latest endeavor and the power and motivation a complete stranger can have to help you pursue a dream.
VIBE: How did you meet Qasim Basir?
Datari Turner: We met through Ava DuVernay five years ago at Sundance. Ava threw a big Sundance dinner and we stayed in contact. We always talked about working together. He called me maybe a year and a half ago, and said he had this love story. He wanted to do a modern day Love Jones meets Annie Hall. I wanted to do a love story because that’s what makes the world go ‘round, and then the election happened. It was polarizing and everyone had an opinion about it, especially amongst black people. I can say this for myself, I hadn’t in my lifetime seen this country as divided as it’s been.
If you don’t mind me asking, how old are you?
Cool. Okay, Continue.
I just felt like there was so much hate brewing. Especially after coming off of eight years with Obama. It was just a polarizing election. We were talking about it and we kind of agreed to base this story on the night of the election.
What are the major themes of A Boy. A Girl A Dream?
The film is essentially about four things. It’s about faith, not in the traditional sense but –
Not in an overt sense either.
Right, but it is faith-based. It’s about God telling two people to do a certain thing, to go after their dreams. I think in life — whether you move to New York or L.A. or Atlanta — a lot of times you move somewhere with a dream and “real life” sets in. You have to get a job, you have to pay bills, maybe you have kids, get married and sometimes people forget what their dreams were all because of “real life.” So it’s about dreams.
Hold on, I’m going to stop you right there. What was it about Donald Trump’s election that makes Cass and Frida follow their dreams more so now than during the eight years Barack Obama was in office?
I think it’s two people that found each other on that particular night. Sometimes you can have people in your life that you’ve known for 10 years, 15 years, 20 years that never challenge you to be the best version of yourself. Sometimes you can meet somebody that you don’t even know at all but that person asks you the right questions. Sometimes if someone asks you the right questions, you can come up with the right answers to make you think about something really differently. It’s two people that found each other on that particular night. Everything is timing. I also think one of the things that makes this film special is we shot the film all in one take.
Yeah, it’s no cuts in the entire film. It’s one continuous take all the way through. We shot the film 13 times. We had months of preparation and months of rehearsal, because it’s shot almost like a play in some sense. You have the B style. So we shot the film and we used the best take that we had, that we thought was the best. I would say the process, even with rehearsal with the actors, it took about three months.
Why Omari Hardwick and Meagan Good? Why have them play Cass and Frida?
Meagan and Omari are dear, close, personal friends of mine. I cast Omari in a film before his career took off with Power, and Meagan is sort of like my producing partner. We’ve made five movies together. Her husband Devon is a childhood friend of mine, but Meagan was the first actress to believe in me when I was leaving the fashion industry and was making the transition to a producer. She really championed my work early on. I’m a loyal person and I couldn’t thank her enough for believing in me early in my career and we’ve continued to work together. Omari as well. I’ve known Omari for a very long time. He’s extremely talented.
Omari is intense. When he’s in his role, he’s really in his role.
I agree. Issa Rae said something that always stuck with me. She said so many times we want to network up, when we really should network across; come up with your friends and the people that started with you. We can create our crew. I’ve always felt that same way which is why I’ve done five movies with Meagan and two with Omari. Our supporting cast is really amazing. Jay Ellis –
Jay Ellis’s character was the worst. Jay Ellis thankfully is nothing like the character he’s played.
That was Jay’s choice. Everybody is playing against their type in this film. Omari, you know his character on Power. He’s a drug kingpin who is very detail-oriented about everything. His character on A Boy. A Girl. A Dream is a club promoter. He’s got the blonde mohawk. He’s different. Jay Ellis as well. It’s funny. The characters were influenced by two real club promoters that I know in L.A. and they’re polar opposites as well. One of these guys in real life was woke and one of them isn’t. That’s what we wanted to do. It was an intentional thing. You know, sometimes in life people become or fall into a certain thing, but everybody is more than what the world sometimes allows them to be.
In the film after its realized Trump is president, Cass says we just have to keep fighting. But there are a lot of black people and people of color who have now used entertainment as a means to escape the very harsh reality of our world. Did that ever deter you from moving forward with the film?
At the end of the day, the election is just used as a backdrop. This is about love. This is about hope. This is about two people who discover each other and find each other that needed to find each other. The night just happened to be the night. This is about dreams.
What do you want viewers to take from this film?
I just want them to be inspired. I want them to have hope. I want them to watch the movie and say, ‘You know what? I can dream.’ If it’s something that you had a passion for that you kind of stopped going after because of life or somebody told you you couldn’t do it. I just want people to be inspired. I want people to love. I want people to dream. I want people to have hope that we all can make a difference in the world. That’s what I want people to think.